coconut thumbprints

Happy Sunday, everyone! We are continuing our journey through the Bars & Cookies chapter of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person, inching our way closer to the midway point of this baking project. This week, we’re bringing you bake number 48, the Coconut Thumbprints.

Lauren’s Take

Hello hello all! I hope you have all been enjoying your week and keeping well! This week has been very hectic and full, but not too full that I wasn’t able to squeeze in my bake; Coconut Thumbprints! This was one I’d been looking forward too for a while…I love anything coconut flavoured and macaroons are one of my favourite things.

 

This bake is extremely simple and can be done quickly in one afternoon. First you make your dough and bake the cookies. The dough comes together in the stand mixer (using the paddle attachment). It combines lots of butter, powdered sugar, salt, egg yolks, and shredded coconut. The dough is extremely thick and heavy when it comes together.

You then form the thumbprint cookies; I used a tablespoon measure to collect the dough, then rolled them in my hand into balls. Once I had made balls with all of the dough (I ended up being able to make about 42 cookies), I used the end of a wooden spoon to make the holes in the middle, then went over them all with my hands to widen. In retrospect, I don’t think I pushed down hard enough when making the holes, because they ended up being a bit shallow, but they still worked!



Once the cookies were formed, I put them in the fridge to chill for about 20 minutes, then baked them in the oven for about 20 minutes. The book said to bake until the cookies are golden all over which was tricky to get. I found for me, my cookies got pretty golden on the bottoms and sides after like 15 minutes but the tops weren’t, so I kept leaving them in. Well, the tops never got golden really and the bottoms just continued to bake, so my advice would be to just go with what’s happening on the bottom/sides of the cookie.

Once the cookies are done, you leave them to cool while you make your coconut caramel. I was DETERMINED this time to make an excellent caramel because I have slightly burnt every single one I’ve done so far. This was a wet caramel, so it just starts with sugar, corn syrup (finally another use for it!), and some water. Once it has boiled down and is amber in colour (I went a bit before amber), you remove from heat and add coconut milk, coconut oil and salt, which I thought was such a cool switch from heavy cream. The caramel still tastes so rich but it’s lactose friendly, which my partner was excited about.

Once the caramel has cooled and thickened slightly, you fill the thumbprints. I ended up being able to pour about 1/2 teaspoon plus a bit more into each one. Some of them I was a bit over zealous and they split over a tad. The filled cookies are left to cool a bit longer to let the caramel set and then you’re done!


On my first try of this cookie, I was disappointed. I went into it expecting that quintessential chewiness of a macaron, but instead, this cookie is more crumbly and buttery like a shortbread. Once I got over that, I tried it again and really enjoyed it with my new set of expectations. There is so much coconut flavour packed into this little cookie, that you can’t mistake what type of cookie it is! And I did nail the caramel and it is so delicious. They are a bit intense with coconut, so I find they aren’t the type of cookie you want to have multiple of, but they are quite good. 4 stars from me!

Julia’s Take

I am a HUGE coconut lover, so when I saw that these cookies had coconut in the dough itself PLUS a coconut-flavoured caramel to spoon into the middle, I was pumped to say the least. By now, I’ve developed a great love of making caramel, and we haven’t had a chance to make any special components like this since finishing the Pies & Tarts chapter, so I was also looking forward to using some of these other skills again.

It’s been interesting writing these last few blog posts because I feel like nothing overly story-worthy has been happening during the cookie-baking process. That said, I did finally bake my fruitcakes and THAT was a journey, so stay tuned for more on the week-long debacle that was involved in getting those babies prepped and ready to feed. They are currently nestled in their little beds waiting for next week’s shot of brandy.

These thumbprint cookies came together in the stand mixer with a combination of butter, powdered sugar, eggs, flour, salt, and shredded coconut—a shortbread-esque dough with basically a one-to-one ratio of flour and coconut for added texture and obviously flavour.

Once I had my dough, I portioned out little balls using my scale, placed them on baking trays lined with parchment paper, and then shaped them by pressing down on each ball and then using my thumb to make that signature little dip in the middle of each cookie. Once all my cookies were formed, they sat in the fridge to firm up for about 20 minutes.

At this point, I got started on the caramel. The process was exactly the same as any caramel—sugar and water in a pot brought to a boil and monitored closely until you get that deep amber colour. In this case, some light corn starch was also added which I think was meant to help the caramel firm up as it cooled. The main difference here was that, instead of pouring cream into your caramel at the end to create the sauce, coconut milk is used. There were also a couple tablespoons of coconut oil added in at the end, and a dash of salt. This caramel was BOMB and I would make it on its own again and again (much like the other caramel recipes in this book). It would be so good on ice cream.

Once the cookies were baked, some of the caramel was spooned into the thumbprint centre. I did find that my cookies took way less time to bake than what was indicated in the book, so a few came out a lot darker than I would have liked.

These had all the coconut flavour you would hope for, and the shredded coconut in the cookie added great texture. These were still a bit drier than I expected or would have liked, but the addition of the caramel in the middle definitely helped balance things out. It is a 4-star bake for me!

Coming up next week: the long-anticipated Oat and Pecan Brittle Cookies!

aunt rose’s mondel bread

Good morning fellow Dessert People! We are back with bake number 47 from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. This latest recipe from the Bars & Cookies chapter is a family favourite that has been passed down through four generations—Aunt Rose’s Mondel Bread. You know we love families who bake together 😉

Lauren’s Take

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Take

I love learning about different cultural recipes and family traditions, so when I read the little introduction to this recipe in the book and found out that this was one that had been passed down through four generations of family, I was excited to give it a try.

From what I read, it sounds like mondel bread is basically a Jewish variation on biscotti. It’s similar to the Italian version that we’re all familiar with (and that our dad and brother bake together every Christmas) except that oil is used instead of butter and the mondel bread is only baked once instead of twice. Most of the cookies in this chapter so far have been pretty standard in terms of process—mix dry ingredients, mix wet ingredients, combine to create a dough, form and bake—so it was fun to bake something that had a few different steps involved.

The formation of the dough is exactly what you’d expect—dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt), wet ingredients (oil, eggs, sugar, vanilla), and then slivered almonds that I had been toasted in the oven earlier in the day are all combined in the stand mixer. The dough then sits in the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up.

Once you have your chilled dough, you form the logs. I was a little unsure from the description in the book what exactly these were supposed to look like, and there was no photo or video in this case to go off of, so I just went with how I knew biscotti were formed and hoped for the best. I found it a little tricky to form the logs without any cracks but made them as smooth as possible. Each log is then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and into the oven they go!

This was a three-step bake: round one – logs are sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and bake for 20-ish minutes. Round two – they come out, are flipped over, sprinkled with more cinnamon sugar, and bake for another 15 minutes. Round three, you guessed in – they come out, are flipped over again, sprinkled with MORE cinnamon sugar (this was definitely more cinnamon sugar than you really needed…) and bake for a final 15 minutes.

At this point, I should have given the mondel bread a little bit of time to cool and then sliced while still warm, but I was heading out for the night so left the baked logs sitting on the counter. I came back the next morning and sliced the fully cooled mondel bread, which led to some cracking and breakage, so for anyone planning to make this recipe, take Claire’s advice and slice while warm.

Overall, these were what I expected—a drier, simpler cookie (as intended) but with great almond flavour and texture, and a solid accompaniment to a cup of coffee. The process, like I said, was definitely a lot of fun but compared to some of the other recipes in this chapter, these cookies weren’t life-changing. A solid, 3-star bake for me!

Next week we’ll be baking Coconut Thumbprints. See you then!

chewy molasses spice cookies

Welcome back, friends! We are now almost halfway through the Bars & Cookies chapter of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. This week, we’re bringing you bake number 46—Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies.

Lauren’s Take

Happy November everyone! (And for you holiday fanatics like myself, Happy official beginning to the holiday season!) This week we baked, in my opinion, the perfect cookie! It just so happened that Claire’s video for the week on her YouTube channel was for this bake as well…. like to think it’s because she is following along with Julia and I and wanted to do us a solid.

Speaking of the holiday season, there is nothing I like more than a gingerbread cookie. The combination of spices and the warmth of the ginger and molasses is just something I will never get tired of. So I was so excited to make this cookie! And it did not disappoint.

This is a very simple cookie to make, with a large payoff. The most time consuming part is chilling the dough before baking. I gotta say, chilling cookie dough has become one of the greatest life lessons I have learned from this experience…it just makes the cookie so much chewier!

The dough comes together by creaming the brown sugar and butter together in the stand mixer, then adding eggs, molasses, apple cider vinegar, vanilla, and finally all your dry ingredients. The spices used for this cookie include ginger, all spice, cloves, and black pepper. The sticky dough is then separated into two equal halves, wrapped, and then chilled.

Once the dough has chilled (I left mine overnight), you can then divide the dough and bake. I separated the dough into 1oz balls and then coated them in Demerara sugar (yes, I bit the bullet this week and actually bought legit Demerara sugar). The balls are spaced evenly on the baking sheet and then baked in the oven for about 12-14 minutes.

This amount of dough makes A LOT of cookies, so I had to do this in stages, making sure I placed the dough balls I wasn’t baking back into the fridge so they wouldn’t get too soft.

The baking was where I had a bit of a snag: in the video and in the cookbook, Claire’s cookies come out with these beautiful large creases along the top, which still look shiny and a but underdone when removed from the oven. For whatever reason, I didn’t get a lot of cracks in my cookies. I thought that perhaps it had to do with my Demerara sugar, which was a bit heavier than traditional raw sugar. So I did a batch with less sugar coating, and then one with no sugar coating at all. Progressively each time, I did get more cracking along the top, but nothing remotely like what I saw in the book. I was a bit bummed, but that feeling soon went away once I tried a cookie.

This is my perfect cookie, hands down. It is so chewy and soft and the flavour hits in all the right places. The black pepper really adds a nice kick at the end of each bite. I am a huge fan and everyone I have shared with has asked for the recipe! 5 stars for me! Even though this recipe made so many cookies, I don’t think I’ll be able to save any for Christmas so I guess I’ll just have to make more 😉

In other news, I have made my fruitcakes! They are currently nestled inside of their beds, and will be taken out each week to be fed brandy (not a bad life). Stay tuned!

*Shoutout to my friend Taylor for letting me use her new phone to take high quality photos this week*

 

Julia’s Take

My little freezer stash of Christmas cookies just got a bit bigger with this week’s bake! I love anything with warm spices and molasses, and gingerbread always brings those wonderful nostalgic holiday feels, so I was pumped to take a crack at this recipe!

Normally I am a “crispy gingerbread cookie” over a “chewy gingerbread cookie” kind of girl, but in general I love a good chew on a baked good, so Claire’s method and results were spot on. This recipe was quick and easy to put together: first, mix all the dry ingredients together (a brilliant spice combo of black pepper, cloves, all spice, and ginger in this bake—mad props from me on this because, call me crazy, but in terms of warm spices I would rank clove high above any day!).

The other ingredients come together in gradual stages in the stand mixer—brown sugar, butter (which has been melted and then cooled to room temp to help with overall texture of the final cookie), molasses, eggs, vanilla, apple cider vinegar, and eventually the dry ingredients. You end up with a pretty sticky dough, which is typical of a gingerbread cookie; the dough then chills in the refrigerator to firm up before shaping. I left mine in the fridge for a couple of hours while I did some other errands, and then came back to finish the bake.

I’ve always had a pretty loose approach to scooping/shaping cookies, but after measuring out the specific amount Claire called for in the book per cookie, and seeing how beautifully uniform all the cookies came out, I will never go back! Working with a cold dough and making sure each ball of cookie dough measures an equal number of grams is key to getting that perfectly circular bake, and man is it ever satisfying to pull them out of the oven! I rolled each ball in raw sugar before baking, and the end result was a pretty, crackly, shimmery top.

The one thing I couldn’t figure out with this bake is why some of my cookies ended up with more of a crack on top than others. I had two baking sheets in the oven at a time, and rotated them halfway through like the recipe suggests, but for some reason the tray of cookies that started on the top rack ended up with more prominent crackling than the tray that started on the bottom rack. If anyone has any idea why, holler at your girl.

Overall, these had the most delicious flavour, a unique hit from the pepper, the most ideal texture, and such a gorgeous overall look. I can’t wait to serve these to friends and family over the holidays. It’s another 5-star bake from me!

Next week, we’ll be baking Aunt Rose’s Mondel Bread.

pistachio pinwheels

Can you believe we’ve already made it to our 45th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person? It feels like we just started this little project of ours, and yet somehow we are almost halfway through the book. The Bars & Cookies chapter continues to be filled with delicious little treats; this week’s cookies were the Pistachio Pinwheels.

Lauren’s Take

Hello all! Can I just say how much I’m loving this Bars & Cookies chapter? Although a part of me does miss the tedious, time management focused bakes of the past (and the future), there truly is something to be said about being able to bake something in the moment, no real planning needed.

These Pistachio Pinwheels definitely fit the bill! The only snag this time was finding blanched, shelled pistachios that were green enough to make a pronounced swirl in the cookie. I made the mistake of sending my boyfriend to find them when he went grocery shopping, and he returned with a huge bag of un-blanched, un-shelled pistachios (A for effort Ben!). I was able to find them at my local bulk barn though!

Once you have all the ingredients, putting this cookie together is fairly simple. You are essentially making two doughs; one with ground pistachio and one without. The first dough is made by combining flour, almond flour, butter, powdered sugar, egg yolks, and almond extract in the food processor. You then roll it out into a 12×8 rectangle and let it chill. The second dough uses the same base as the first, but you add ground pistachio to it to make it green and leave it at room temperature.

Once the first dough is chilled, you spread the second dough all across the base dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border along the outside. The dough is then rolled up into a log and chilled for about an hour. Once firm, you remove the log from the fridge, roll it in Demerara sugar (I used my trusty dark brown again), and then cut them into 32 equal pieces!

 

Cutting the log was a very satisfying part as it exposed the really cool, bright green swirl within each cookie. The cookies are baked for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown on the outside. This time, I trusted my nose when they were done and not the timer! And it worked! I definitely did not over or under bake these.

 

Aesthetically, this is such a beautiful cookie and will be perfect for the holidays. They are not overly sweet and have that essential buttery texture that you want in a shortbread cookie. Initially, you don’t get hit with the pistachio flavour right away, but it leaves a perfect after taste in your mouth. Really good cookie…nothing spectacular that leaves you wanting to eat one after another, but pretty delicious all the same. 3.5 stars from me!

Julia’s Take

Welcome back to another Sunday baking post! The Pistachio Pinwheels were one of the first recipes from the book that I learned about because Claire put out a YouTube video with NYT Cooking around the holidays last year, shortly after the book was published and right before I got it for Christmas. Watching her make these pretty little cookies made me even more excited to snag my copy and get baking myself!

The process was fun and simple once again this week. Everything is combined in a food processer, which I love—the less bowls to clean up, the better if you ask me! There are two different doughs created for this cookie, one that is primarily almond and the other that brings the pistachio flavour and colour. The base of each is your typical shortbread cookie: flour, butter, powdered sugar, and egg yolks. You then take about two thirds of this shortbread base and add almond flour and almond extract to it, roll it out into a rectangle between two pieces of parchment paper, and then let it chill and firm up in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

While the almond dough chills, the ground pistachios are added to the rest of the base dough. I was able to find shelled pistachios, but they were not blanched so I was worried my spiral wouldn’t come out as green as it needed to be. I decided to add some green food colouring to the pistachio dough and this worked out really well!

Once the pistachio dough comes together, it is spread over the chilled rectangle and everything is rolled up into a log. For some reason, the almond dough started to warm up really quickly and got super soft as I was starting to roll. I think it probably could have stayed in the fridge another 10 minutes at least. Even though I wasn’t able to get as tight a roll as I wanted, the log still formed just fine, and then sat in the fridge for an hour to firm up again.

The best part of this recipe by far was slicing the cookies! Once the log is removed from the fridge, it is rolled in our good ol’ trusty Demerara sugar (has there been a single recipe in this book that HASN’T called for Demerara sugar??), and then sliced evenly. Based on how horribly my roll seemed to go, I did not think I would get tight spirals, but I was so pleasantly surprised when I saw those pretty green swirls in the centre of each cookie!

The cookies bake for 15-20 minutes—my first batch stayed in for 16 minutes and they were just a touch dark, so I kept the rest in for 14 and they were must better. I would say I found them a little more almond-forward than pistachio flavoured, but still nutty and delicious. The overbaked ones definitely came out a little dry, but overall you get that wonderfully soft shortbread texture that you want from a cookie like this. Maybe if we hadn’t just made the palmiers and the brownies, which were so unreal, I’d rate these slightly higher, but it would have to be a 3.5 star bake from me. These cookies are going to be perfect for Christmas!

Coming up next week: Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies!

malted “forever” brownies

We’ve made it to bake number 44 from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person. The latest recipe we tackled from the Bars & Cookies chapter of the book was a super decadent one—the Malted “Forever” Brownies.

Lauren’s Take

Hello hello! Finally we make it to the highly anticipated malted “forever” brownies!

Ever since Claire released the video of her making this recipe, I (as well as many other people in my life) have been excited for this recipe to come up. I’m not a huge chocolate fan, as you already know…but there’s something about a fudge-y, chewy brownie alongside a big glass a milk that I can get behind.

This is a very simple recipe—but takes a bit of time to get everything to cool as Claire instructs. Otherwise, it is a “throw everything into a bowl, mix it up, and bake” kind of recipe. The biggest challenge was finding this elusive malted milk powder. I had never heard of it before. My only experience with the word malt is beside the word liquor, but I knew that couldn’t be it. After many texts with Julia and some Googling, I discovered/was told that Ovaltine is malted milk, and my local grocery store had the specific non-chocolate flavoured, malted milk one! I was so excited when I got home from the store with this massive jar of malted milk…I became less excited when I realized we only need 2 tablespoons for the recipe. If anyone in the Ottawa region loves malted milk and would like a massive jar of Ovaltine, hit me up.

Anyways, in terms of the recipe, you mix cocoa powder with hot water, then add vegetable oil, butter, and semi-sweet chocolate, whisking until smooth. Then the brown and white sugars are added, along with eggs and vanilla. This makes a super smooth and shiny batter. Then the dry ingredients of flour, salt, and least we forget, malted milk powder are whisked in until combined. The rest of the chocolate is now mixed in. I used milk chocolate chips, rather than cutting up a bar.

The mixture is poured into a foil covered 8×8 metal pan and baked in the oven until the mixture is dry but still soft to the touch. After over-baking my cookies slightly last week, I was really nervous about doing the same with the brownies. After 25 minutes, the top felt dry but still looked a tad wet, so I left it for another minute or so and then took them out.

I did as instructed; I let them cool for 1 hour at room temperature in the pan, and then placed the pan in the fridge to cool for another hour. When I removed them the dough still felt quite soft and there were pieces in the centre that seemed really gooey. So I do think that I did under-bake them slightly. Either that, or I didn’t allow the brownies to cool long enough to allow the chocolate chip pieces to re-solidify? Not sure. Either way, after cutting I placed all the brownies back in the fridge overnight to firm up even more.

The next day, the brownies had some together better. They are SO chewy and fudge-y (which may be because they are undercooked but yolo). I added flaky salt on top, which I find really helps to balance the rich chocolate flavour. I don’t know if I taste malted milk per say, but I do think it adds to the creamy quality of the brownies for sure. Pretty solid brownie recipe I gotta say. If I do make them again though, I’d bake for longer. 4 stars!

Julia’s Take

I don’t think you’d find many people out there who say they don’t enjoy a good brownie. Although they aren’t in my regular rotation of baked goods, sometimes nothing hits better than a super chocolatey, decadent brownie. Claire calls these “forever” brownies because she claims they are the only brownie you’ll ever want to eat ever again. With this kind of hype, you can bet I was excited to give them a try.

Although Claire offers a few variations in the book (mint, nuts, whole grain), the original recipe is “malted” because it calls for the addition of malted milk powder. Apparently this is not as common or easy to find in Canada as it is in the US, and after searching high and low for this ingredient (grocery stores: nothing; bulk food stores: nothing; online: unavailable or ridiculously expensive), I came up empty handed. I’d heard from some fellow dessert people that Ovaltine can work as a decent substitute since there is malt in the ingredients; the recipe only called for 2 tablespoons’ worth so I figured for just that, Ovaltine should work just fine.

The batter comes together easily and quickly—such a nice turn of events with this chapter after a laborious summer making pies and tarts. The ingredients are what you’d expect—cocoa powder, but bloomed first with boiling water (apparently this makes the chocolate flavour really come through), butter, oil, semisweet chocolate, egg, vanilla, brown and granulated sugar, and then eventually AP flour, the Ovaltine in my case, and a touch of salt. Once the batter is whisked together, Claire calls for some roughly chopped pieces of milk chocolate to be folded in. I decided to use Maltesers instead of regular milk chocolate to ramp up the malt flavour.

The batter is poured in to an 8×8 baking dish lined with foil and the brownies bake for just under 30 minutes. Besides the addition of malt, the other distinguishing factor in Claire’s recipe is the rest time—1 hour in the pan and another hour in the fridge. She says this helps create a chewier texture.

These brownies were SO good and absolutely lived up to the hype. I definitely veer more towards a chewier vs. cakier brownie, so these were right up my ally. They are fudgy without being overwhelmingly sweet, and the Maltesers were absolutely the right call—you get that extra little hit of chocolate in every bite with a hit of that special malt flavour. I can see why you’d never want to have another brownie ever again. 5 stars for me again this week!

Next week, we’ll be baking up the Pistachio Pinwheels. See you then!

cinnamon sugar palmiers

It’s bake number 43 this week! The Bars & Cookies chapter of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person got off to a bit of a shaky start, but boy oh boy has it stepped up over the last few weeks. This week, we made Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers!

Lauren’s Take

Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone! Besides continuing to be thankful for my family, friendships, and the work I get to do every day, I have added something else to the list this year. This year, I am extremely thankful for rough puff pastry. I mean, the flakes, the butter, the way it is crunchy yet also melts in your mouth?! I don’t know about you, but I feel real lucky that rough puff has come into my life.

The bake for this week was the Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers. I had never made or tried palmiers before, but I was excited when I saw we’d be using rough puff pastry! I had a 1/2 recipe left from the summer when we made the Peach Melba Tart. My pastry had turned out so well that time, that I couldn’t wait to see it in action again!

Since I already had the pastry done from before, this was a super fast bake to organize. I left my pastry at room temperature to thaw out, and then placed it into the fridge until I was ready to bake. Then I made the cinnamon sugar. The recipe calls for Demerara sugar, but I only had dark brown sugar so I used that. You combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt to make the sugar mixture. Easy.

The rough puff is rolled out into a 12×10 inch rectangle. I placed some of the sugar underneath the pastry and then brushed egg wash all along the top of the dough. I then sprinkled and pressed about half of the sugar on top of the pastry, pushing it down with my rolling pin. I then rolled up the dough to make the palmiers.

I started by marking the middle of the dough and rolling each section tightly towards the centre, getting two identical (or at least decently identical…) rolls of dough. I then put the dough on its side and firmly pressed the two rolls together, brushed the outside the egg wash, sprinkled more sugar on the outside, wrapped the log in parchment paper, and placed it in the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up.

Once the dough felt firm but not frozen, I took it out of the freezer, cut off the edges of the log, and cut the rest into 16 equal pieces. The pieces of dough looked so beautiful with the swirled design and the dark cinnamon sugar! I laid each cookie onto the baking sheet, giving each one some room to grow, and baked!

I began to smell the cookies after about 15 minutes of baking. When I checked in the oven, there was definitely a lot of growth and caramelization of the sugar, but the dough didn’t quite look golden brown, as is indicated in the book, so I decided to leave them. I ended up baking for 25 minutes because I wasn’t getting the golden brown colour, which I think was too long. I didn’t burn the cookies, but it did seem that the sugar was over-caramelized. So, trust your nose!

I did this bake while watching Claire’s video on rough puff pastry where she makes these cookies. There were definitely some noticeable differences. Claire uses a different type of sugar, doesn’t do an egg wash, doesn’t freeze the dough before cutting, cooks them for a different amount of time…before these differences in videos versus the recipe used to stress me out and I would wonder what the right decision would be. Now, as I have become more confident in baking and trusting my instincts, I just take whatever advice I decide feels right in the moment. And I think that’s why Claire doesn’t sweat not following the recipe exactly either, because she sure does know her stuff.

I was ECSTATIC when I took these cookies out of the oven. First off, the dough puffed beautifully and the layers were unreal. Everyone I showed this cookie to, I kept incessantly pointing out how many layers there were because I was so proud. The cookie just looks so beautiful, it’s hard not to be impressed. In terms of taste, the dough was perfect—extremely flaky and buttery and baked well. The cookie tastes like the very center of a cinnamon bun, which in my opinion is the best part, so you can guess how I feel about the cookie. As I mentioned, my sugar tasted a bit over-caramelized in places, but overall this cookie was a hit for me. 5 stars!

Julia’s Take

Hi everyone and Happy Thanksgiving! I’m always thankful for so many things, and this year I can add this little baking community to the list. These sweet little cinnamon-y babies were the perfect fall flavour and an excellent bake for the holiday weekend.

I think we all know by now how I feel about Claire’s Rough Puff. Taking homemade puff pastry out of the oven and see all of those incredible little layers gives you a level of pride I have felt from few other things in my life. It truly never gets old!

Since I still had Rough Puff in the freezer from when I made the Peach Melba Tart a couple of months back, this was an extremely quick and easy bake. I took my pastry out of the freezer and let it thaw at room temperature for a couple of hours, then threw it into the fridge for the rest of the day. Once I was ready to bake, the pastry is rolled out into a rectangle, brushed with egg wash, and a mixture of demerara sugar (Claire’s all-time fave), cinnamon, and a pinch of salt gets sprinkled over the whole thing.

To create that signature palmier spiral, you need to roll the dough in towards the center from each side. The full log is brushed with egg wash and coated with the rest of the cinnamon sugar, making sure you are pressing the spirals together so keep things nice and tight. This is a simple enough technique, but for some reason I was a bit of a hot mess doing this. My pastry was starting to become VERY warm and soft, and the cinnamon sugar kept sticking to my hands. I was really worried by spirals were too loose but tried my best to get the mushy disaster of a “log” rolled in to the parchment paper and put it in the freezer to firm up as per Claire’s instructions, crossing my fingers that it would hold together well enough to bake.

I wasn’t thrilled with the shape of my “log” even after 25 minutes in the freezer, but it was firm enough to cut so I just went with it. Luckily, as I started to slice the roll into cookies, you could see the little spiral shape. I tried my best to re-spiral the cookies that had some slightly undone and pressed everything together as I went along. I love a recipe that’s forgiving enough to tweak and salvage as you go.

The cookies were spread out on a cookie sheet and baked for about 25 minutes. There are few things more comforting than the smell of cinnamon, especially on a cold, rainy, fall day. Even though the palmier spirals weren’t quite as tight as I was hoping for, my pastry puffed up beautifully and I was thrilled to see those beautiful little layers. One of the best things about the palmiers is how the brown sugar mixture caramelizes along the bottom while they bake.

The whole thing is just a dream combo of textures—sugary, crispy, flaky, buttery deliciousness! Such a simple, wonderful way to use leftover pastry. It’s another 5-star bake for me.

Coming up next week: Malted Forever Brownies! Wishing all of our Canadian friends a very Happy Thanksgiving!

chocolate chip cookies

Good morning everyone and welcome back! This week, we’re continuing on with the Bars & Cookies chapter and bringing you our 42nd bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert PersonChocolate Chip Cookies. A true classic, and a recipe we’ve been looking forward to trying since we got the book!

Lauren’s Take

A 5-star bake! Check back for updates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia’s Take

When I was in university, one of my roommates’ moms made the BEST chocolate chip cookies in the entire world. Every time she would go visit home for the weekend, she’d come back with a margarine tub full of them and they would usually disappear within 24 hours. No CCC recipe has ever come close for me; I requested a copy years later, have made them myself, and they’ll always be super special and comforting to me.

That said, I was excited to try Claire’s version. I have heard nothing but rave reviews of this chocolate chip cookie recipe for months now, and even before baking you can understand why: brown butter, big chunks of TWO different kinds of chocolate (milk and dark), a long chilling time to get that perfect chewy texture. It’s not hard to see how these cookies are an easy slam dunk, and I was definitely not disappointed.

I made these cookies over the course of two days. Ultimately, it’s a really simple recipe and doesn’t take long to prepare or bake, but I knew the dough was going to have to chill in the fridge for a good stretch of time and wanted to break things up for myself.

Step one was browning the butter—something that is quickly becoming one of my new favourite activities (something only someone who is baking through an entire cookbook right now would ever say…). There’s just something about that nutty aroma you get as the butter sizzles away and the milk solids start to foam and float away that is so comforting and satisfying. One half the butter is browned, it is poured into a bowl with the other half of the butter, which has been sliced into thin pieces.

The rest of the batter comes together with all the usual suspects: whisk a combination of brown and granulated sugar into the cooled butter, add a couple of eggs and some vanilla extra, and then add in your dry ingredients (AP flour, baking soda, and some salt). Once the batter is combined, the chocolate is folded in. Claire’s recipe calls for chocolate discs vs. chocolate chips (because why use chips or even standard chunks when you can be super extra and bougey and use discs? Classic Claire); the other signatures here are that half the discs are roughly chopped and the other half are left whole, and you use a combination of milk and semi-sweet or dark chocolate. This combination of textures and flavours is stellar—chocolate runs through the entire cookie without being overwhelmingly sweet.

After the batter comes together, the cookies are scooped out onto a cookie sheet—a whole 2-ounce or quarter-cup sized scoop per cookie. Monstrous! But I guess if you’re going to have a cookie, HAVE A COOKIE. I let my balls of cookie dough sit in the fridge wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for the recommended minimum 12 hours. The dough tasted unreal, so I was pretty pumped about baking the next day.

The next morning, I was ready to go. The cookies are spread out further onto a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes. They spread out quite a bit while baking, and the baking soda gives you those signature wrinkled edges.

The results were just as delicious as I expected them to be! These cookies are the dream combination of crispy edges and chewy centre. The depth of flavour you get from the brown butter and the two types of chocolate and the combo of chocolate textures is just genius. I shared these cookies with some friends, and everyone was messaging me the rest of the week asking if I still had any left. A huge hit, a new favourite that I’ll be making again and again, and absolutely a 5-star bake for me!

Next week, we’ll be busting out the Rough Puff again to make Cinnamon Sugar Palmiers! See you then.

brown butter and sage sablés

Happy Sunday! We’re back with our 41st bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person as we continue to make our way through the Bars & Cookies chapter. This week, we made Brown Butter and Sage Sablés!

Lauren’s Take

Happy fall everyone! This week we’re coming at you with another cookie recipe, and I gotta say, this one did not disappoint.

After not enjoying last week’s bake, I was nervous to once again combine savoury flavours in a sweet cookie. I also had never worked with sage before and was interested to see how the flavour would play out. But once I read “brown butter” in the title, I knew that this was probably going to be delicious! I mean, when has brown butter ever failed you in your life?

The cookies this week are called “sablés” which is a French shortbread-like cookie. Sablé means “sandy,” so the idea is to have a cookie with less sugar and more butter, in order to make something less sweet that melts in your mouth.

In general, making shortbread is super simple, but for this recipe, there were a few things that added some complexity. First, you have to make the sage brown butter, which requires a lot of patience and instinct. You heat the butter with the sage leaves and steams over low heat, until the butter foams and the leaves crisp up; this took about 10 minutes for me. You then remove the sage (saving it on a plate for later) and pour the butter into a bowl to chill COMPLETELY until it starts to firm up once again. This took a lot longer than I thought it was going to. In total, to get the butter back to a firmer, but not hard, consistency, I left it for about 35-40 minutes. Claire warns not to rush this process or to let the butter become too firm, as it will affect the milk solids in the butter.

Once the butter is ready, you cream it with sugar and lemon zest (classic Claire move), using the stand mixer. Once pale, you add egg yolks and vanilla and then add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt). Once the dough comes together in the mixer, you separate it into two equal portions and create two logs of dough. The dough isn’t dry, per say, but it does have a crumbly texture to it. I used Claire’s technique to form the logs, which involved putting the dough on parchment paper and using a bench scraper to force it into shape. The two logs are wrapped in parchment paper and then plastic wrap and left to chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours (mine stayed in for closer to 4).

While my dough was chilling, I made the sage sugar for the outside of the cookie. You take half of the reserved, crispy sage leaves and crumble them into brown sugar. This mixture will coat the outside of the cookies.

Once the dough is ready, you roll the logs in the sugar, and cut each log into about 18 equal discs. Full disclosure, I found the sugar didn’t stick very well when I rolled it, so I patted it on throughout. And my logs weren’t the most round shape, so I had some funky looking discs, but it all worked out. When cutting, the dough was definitely easy to slice, but did keep its shape!

The discs are placed on a baking sheet and baked for 20-25 minutes (mine took 22), until the outer edge starts to become golden brown. You let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets before removing.

These cookies are SO well balanced. The lemon is not overpowering but adds a perfect kick to the sweetness of the sugar. And the brown butter and sage flavours add an amazing depth to the cookie as well.

I love the texture of the sablé and the little crunch the sugar on the outside adds. The sablés are so incredibly light and melt in your mouth, but hold so much flavour! It’s an excellent cookie and I know they’re gonna be a showstopper at Christmas! 5 stars from this baker!

Julia’s Take

Go figure that what’s supposed to be one of the simpler bakes in the book—and something I’ve made a bunch of times before (shortbread cookies)—caused me the most trouble I’ve had so far. This bake took me on a ride!

The process itself has a few fancy additions to Claire-ify it, of course, and some waiting time but otherwise it couldn’t have been simpler. I started off by melting two sticks of butter with the fresh sage until it started to brown (is there anything that smells better than browned butter?!); the sage is removed and set aside and the butter then cools until it’s starting to solidify but isn’t completely solid. I think (but can’t be sure) that this is where I went wrong. My butter was potentially a little TOO solid, which messed with the texture of the dough, but ultimately it remains a bit of a mystery.

Regardless, the cooled butter is mixed with sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, lemon zest, and eventually the dry ingredients (AP flour, cornstarch, salt) until a dough forms. My dough at this point was absolutely too dry, and I should have trusted my instincts, but I know it can be a fine line with shortbread—you don’t want the dough TOO dry or the cookies won’t form properly, but you also don’t want it too wet or you won’t get that soft, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth texture that shortbread is known for. Since I had seemingly done nothing wrong in the 3 simple steps it took to make this dough, I decided to just go with it, formed my dough into two logs like Claire instructs in the recipe, wrapped them in parchment and plastic wrap, and let them sit in the fridge for two hours. It was definitely a little tough to get the dry mixture to form into a log, but ultimately it seemed to be holding OK, and I figured some time in the fridge would do the trick.

I was wrong. After waiting two hours, I took my logs out to slice the cookies and ended up with a huge, crumbly disaster all over my kitchen counter. The cookies would just not hold their shape no matter how thick I tried to make the cookies. At this point, it was pretty late and I was out of sage and completely defeated by the fact that I’d just spent months and months constructing the most complex and beautiful pies and tarts but somehow couldn’t master a simple shortbread cookie—so I called it for the day, determined to try again tomorrow.

The next morning, I hit up the grocery store for some more sage and went in for round two. I followed all the same steps, but sent multiple videos to Lauren of my cooled brown butter to get her intel on whether I was letting is solidify too much vs. not enough. Once I felt satisfied with where the congealed butter was it, I moved on to the other steps. After mixing the dough together, I could already tell the difference between this batch and the first; while the dough was still dry-ish, it felt more like a dough and held its shape so much better. I was optimistic!

Fast forward two hours in the fridge, and I was able to cut the logs into cookies with zero trouble. Yay! Each log is coated in a blend of demerara sugar (Claire’s fave) and the crumbled reserved sage that had been fried in the butter. This leaves a ring of sweet, crackly deliciousness around each cookie.

My cookies baked for about 20 minutes and man oh man am I ever glad I decided to try again because these babies were SO GOOD. Sage in a dessert can sound strange because it can be such a prominent savoury flavour, but it just works sooooo well in this recipe. The depth of flavour from the herb plus the brown butter and the little hit of lemon zest is amazing, and the texture is just perfect. A bit of a rollercoaster, but totally worth the ride. 5 stars from me!

Next week, we’re taking on an absolute classic: Chocolate Chip Cookies!

salted halvah blondies

We’ve reached out 40th bake from Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person—can you believe it?! We’re getting closer and closer to the halfway point. Wow! This latest recipe from the Bars and Cookies chapter was for Salted Halvah Blondies, which used some unique ingredients and had us a bit torn on the results.

Lauren’s Take

I can’t lie friends, I’m really enjoying these one page bakes. You look at the ingredient list in the morning, pick up a few things, and are able to bake within an hour without any extreme form of pre-planning whatsoever…I mean?! As a very low maintenance person, I’ve been a big fan of cookies so far.

What I will say, regrettably, is I was not a fan of this bake at all. I already was going into it a little skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, I love tahini and mid-eastern flavours, but on a dessert? I was a bit thrown to start.

What was cool about this bake was being exposed to some new flavours and ingredients, specifically Halva. Halva is a Turkish candy type thing! Quite crumbly and sweet and comes in a bunch of cool flavours! I went to the Mid-East Food Centre in Ottawa (such a clutch grocery store), and found everything I needed for this bake! I decided to get pistachio flavoured halvah because yolo.

 

The bake itself comes together very easily: mix the dry ingredients, mix the wet, and then combine. The wet ingredients portion of the recipe is a base of melted white chocolate, tahini, brown sugar, and eggs, with the halvah and dry ingredients gently folded in. The mixture becomes a super sticky and kind of firm (?) batter, that is spread into the pan, topped with sesame seeds and flaky salt and then baked.

The recipe warned not to overtake the blondies as to not dry them out, so I baked for 21 minutes. My edges were golden brown and the centre still wobbled like I was instructed. I let it cool, removed from the pan, and cut them into bars and the inside did not look cooked. It still looked kind of gummy like the batter was, but the rest was a golden brown colour? That was where my confusion started. Then I took a bite and my mouth was confused. I felt like I was chewing hummus but then I would get a hit of sweetness.

I love the idea of the flavours and the attempt at the combination, but this girl was not a fan and neither were a few taste testers. But hey, one dessert being not great out of the 40 we’ve made ain’t bad. I give it 1 star unfortunately.

Julia’s Take

I have such mixed emotions over this bake, and I’m still trying to sort out exactly how I feel about this recipe. First off, I should say that I’m not the biggest blondie fan. While I do like vanilla-flavoured anything, as well as brown sugar, I tend to find them a little overwhelmingly sweet most of the time. I was optimistic that the addition of sesame in various forms, which tends to be a savoury ingredient, would help mellow this out—and I’m assuming that was part of Claire’s thought process when she was developing this recipe (could be completely wrong about that one, but sounds legit).

As much as I miss the challenges and amazing results from the Pies and Tarts chapter, it has already been SUCH a nice break to be baking one-page bar and cookie recipes. I’ve gotten in to the habit of really coordinating my time/schedule around a Dessert Person bake, knowing it will take at least a full day to prepare my various components, and so I’ve found myself putting off the last couple of bakes wondering when I’ll have time to get to them. Then, I finally open the book and start getting ready, and within half an hour I’m all baked up and good to go. What?! How can it be? I’m convinced I’ve done something wrong because it feels too easy, and then I remember we’re in brand new territory now. I’ll take it!

This one was super simple. The dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) are mixed together in a bowl. The wet ingredients (white chocolate, butter, tahini) are melted down and combined over a double boiler, and then the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla are whisked in. Then you gently fold in the dry ingredients and the signature ingredient for this bake—some crumbled halvah. I’d never heard of halvah before coming to this recipe; I learned it’s a Middle Eastern confection that is often sesame based but comes in a variety of different flavours. It sort of looks like firm tofu and crumbles up in a similar way. I wasn’t able to find any in the stores in North Bay, but tracked some down online.

The batter felt more like a dough to me in many ways—it was thick and sort of really held together as you folded it, rather than moving loosely like a liquid would. I love the beautiful, rich golden brown colour it became as I combined all of the ingredients and there was no mistaking the smell of the sesame. Once the batter was spread evenly into the pan, the whole thing is sprinkled with sesame seeds and some flaky sea salt, and then into the oven it goes. The recipe says to bake for 20-25 minutes; I went with the full 25 and they were fully baked through but not dry.

Ultimately, I’m just not sure how I felt about the taste. I did like it—the balance of sweet and savoury was what I was hoping would be achieved with this flavour combination. I didn’t find it veered too much in one direction vs. the other. I really love sesame, so that appealed to me, and the little flecks of salt you get once in a while were perfect. But I just didn’t find myself dying to grab another one. I don’t think I could eat more than one at once, and I think that’s just because the flavour profile was so distinct. I definitely did enjoy the taste and texture though, so I would give this bake 3 stars overall!

Coming up next week: Brown Butter and Sage Sables!  

marcona almond cookies

It’s Bars and Cookies time! A brand new chapter of Claire’s Saffitz’s Dessert Person, and we’re kicking it all off with our 39th bake from the book, the Marcona Almond Cookies.

Lauren’s Take

Hello! With the feeling of fall and a new season in the air, so comes pending excitement of the holiday season and Christmas baking!

The very well-timed and completely unintentional benefits of baking this book in order is that we have started the “Cookies and Bars” chapter during the fall which means lots of already prepped Christmas baking! (I’ve already started to set aside some room in my freezer). My plan is to save about 6-8 cookies from each recipe for the holidays and have the most diverse and impressive spread my family has ever seen (until they go to Julia’s house which will have the same spread).

The chapter starts off with a simple, quick and familiar recipe—Almond Cookies! For the life of me, I could not find the Marcona almonds Claire asks for in the book, so I just chose to use regular almonds instead. These almond cookies, or at least a version of them, are a staple at any Italian holiday, ceremony or large gathering, so it was fun to make something I have such fond memories of.

 

It was so refreshing going from multi-step, multi-page, multi-freakout bakes, to a one-pager where you just mix everything and then bake. You simply put almonds, almond paste (which I made myself again), salt, sugar, vanilla, and eggs in the food processor and combine together. You then put the sticky mixture into a piping bag, and pipe out 24 1.5 inch diameter cookies on a baking sheet. The cookies are brushed over with egg yolk, and an almond is then placed in the centre of each. Then pop ‘em in the oven for 10-12 minutes (mine took 11 to be exact) and there ya have it!



These cookies are chewy and have a great almond flavour if that’s your thing. Simple, fast and delicious, but nothing over the top amazing about them. I give them a 3! (And yes, 6-8 of them are happily sitting in my freezer awaiting the holiday season).

Julia’s Take

 

After a pretty technical and challenging chapter working through Pies and Tarts and learning about so many different types of dough, pastry, mousses, creams, caramels, crumbles, and more, it feels nice to be moving on to this new chapter which, I’m sure will have its learning moments as well, but is sure to be a bit more straightforward and less time-consuming than the last few months have been!

We definitely got off on a very easy foot with the Marcona Almond Cookies. The whole process took maybe 40 minutes max, and that’s being generous. It’s also taking into account the fact that I made the almond paste myself, like I did for the Quince Tart a few weeks ago. If I hadn’t had to do that, these cookies could have probably been fully prepared and baked in 25 minutes or less.

 

Since the process was so simple, there isn’t a whole lot to say! Everything comes together in the food processor; I made the almond paste first—which is just a combination of almond flour, powdered sugar, salt, egg white, and almond extract—and since almond paste was just going right into the cookie dough, I didn’t even have to bother with cleaning the equipment before moving on to the next step. Less dishes is always a big win for me!

The dough is almost like more of a thick batter in my opinion, and is a combination of blitzed up almonds (the recipe clearly calls for the Marcona variety, which are supposed to be a bit richer and fattier, but I couldn’t find any so I went with regular blanched almonds to at least have a similar look), the almond paste, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. It blends up smoothly in the food processor within a couple of minutes, and then you can form your cookies. Claire says you can use a pastry bag to pipe them, or just use a regular scoop; again, I’m all about minimizing the clean up, and pastry bags can be such a pain, so since I was feeling particularly lazy when making these cookies, I just used a tablespoon and scooped out my cookies into relatively uniform little mounds.

Each cookie gets a bit of an egg wash on top, and then an almond is pressed into the centre before they bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Could literally not be easier. Part of me felt like I was cheating out of a bake and couldn’t possibly have done all I needed to because I’ve become so accustomed to long wait times, multiple techniques and components, and frantically checking the oven to see if something is going according to plan.

The cookies weren’t anything life-changing, and I didn’t expect them to be, but they were still a delicious little treat. They’re very similar to an Italian almond cookie called Amaretti which we grew up having in our family; they’re a staple at weddings, and our mom will often make them at Christmas or for other special occasions as well. They have a great chewy texture just like Claire’s cookies, and the almond flavour really comes through. Overall, I’d give this bake 3 stars and am excited to get going on this new chapter of the book!

Coming up next week: Salted Halvah Blondies!